I hastily cancelled any plans I had for Tuesday 16th as soon as i found out WHY? Were rollong into town yet again. Regular readers of this blog will know the band have been featured on these pages more than a fair few times.
The band had been outstanding the first time I saw them back in November 2008 when frontman Yoni Wolf boldly announced that Barack Obama would win the American elections, some 5 hours before the whole voting shindig had even kicked off. As far as first concert experiences go this was a special show.
Their next London performance at the Garage was a step up in venue size,though perhaps not in sound quality. In spite of this the band reaffirmed how how well their repertoire translates to the live setting. Songs from the yet to be released ‘Eskimo Snow’ begun trickling into the setlist and the band, with the help of their trusty soundman Snake, made good work or a slightly shoddy sound system on the night.
This show at Heaven is further proof that the californian gang’s popularity is steadily growing. This is made comically clear when I spot a tout outside of the venue trying to sell an overpriced ticket to the bemused members of the band as they walk by. But is this appreciation deserved?
As the band shuffle on to the stage I am reminded of just what makes WHY? so special. Opening with one of my personal favourites, “The Hollows“, the band deliver a burst of energy right from the onset, fully exploiting the addition of Mark Erickson on bass and, in particular, Andrew Broder on guitar to beef up their live lineup.
The added ‘oomph‘ of being a five-piece for this tour means that song structures and instrumentals segments are beautifully embellished. Yet again it has to be said that soundman Snake does a super job in recreating many of the production tricks from the bands last few albums.
Yoni Wolf appears liberated by the reduction of percussive duties, namely the lack of his habbitual snare drum and xylophone set up. Instead he is free to strut and gesticulate around the stage and in his own oddball way pays homage to his hip-hop roots. The frontman is flanked by the “classic” WHY? lineup consisting of his amazingly skilled brother Josiah on drums and the equally talented Doug McDiarmid on keys and guitars.
Naturally tracks from Eskimo Snow feature heavily and are expanded into new territories and delivered with renewed energy . However, there is plenty of room for the the many highlights from ‘Alopecia‘ with “The Vowels Pt. 2“, the aforementioned “The Hollows” and “These Few Presidents” recieving memorable renditions and sparking mass crowd sing alongs. There is something both eerie and beautiful about a room full of people shouting “even though i haven’t seen you in years, yours is a funeral i’d fly to from anywhere” in unison.
After returning for a brilliant encore and some hilarious karate kicks courtesy of Yoni there is one last treat in stock for this audience. Taking advantage of the presence of Andrew Broder on stage the band deliver an incredible rendition of Hymie’s Basement‘s “21st Century Pop Song” that exceeds even the recorded version of the track, right down to the broken up dual vocals at the end.
WHY? are a band that has constantly evolved over the space of each release whilst simultaneously succeeding in the hard task of remaining fresh and exciting. On the live stage these qualities are delivered with true personality allowing for each melody to be accentuated and magnified for maximum effect. Without fail the band has always delivered memorable performances and as long as their live show doesn’t suffer I see no harm in the venue sizes growing more.
Hymie’s Basement -21st Century Pop Song
WHY? – On Rose Walk, Insomniac